Job crafting: A New Redesign Approach for a Meaningful Working Life

Georgia Thrasyvoulou, PhD candidate and Fellow at the Cyprus Centre of Business Research, writes about the key theme of her doctoral research: dealing with the demands of work intensification and the role of job crafting.

The modern workplace is characterized by constant and continuous challenges and increased workload. Working life, it seems, becomes more intense by the day. Tight deadlines, shortage of time to finish a task, high work speed, and limited time for breaks are few of the main results of the work intensification experienced by many. And work, as we know, spills over into our life, so these tough working conditions are affecting employees’ well-being.

In an attempt to adapt to these inevitable challenges in our workplace, we employ proactive behaviours and actions: we craft our jobs. Job crafting captures what we do to redesign our job, through actively changing tasks, relations and perceptions to enhance positive outcomes (Berg, Dutton & Wrzesniewski, 2008). Employees who engage in crafting behaviours are called job crafters and have the ability to proactively modify their job boundaries. As active and dynamic participants, they improvise by creating a ‘different’ job for themselves that still remains consistent with their job definition and role.

The idea of job crafting originates in the theoretical background of job design, which allows for changes to job characteristics in order to reinforce employees’ motivation and well-being (Oldham & Hackman, 2010). Job crafting is in many ways the evolution of job design theory: employees take the initiative to change the structure and the content of their own job without expecting the organization to do it for them. Job crafting differs from job design, the latter is focused on the work experience of employees with mostly static task elements. In other words, job crafting is not the privilege of a few since even employees working within a stable environment and who have detailed job descriptions and clear work procedures seem to craft their jobs constantly. Job crafting are behaviours and actions we all engage in during our daily working routine, most of the times, without even noticing it.

How often during your working day or week do you introduce new tasks into your job that better fit your interests and skills; how often do you reshuffle priorities and change processes to perform a task? This is called task crafting, and it refers to the changes employees make on their job by adding or dropping tasks, changing the nature of tasks or the amount of time, energy and attention they allocate to several tasks. Often while we are working, we start a conversation with a colleague next to us and interact with other colleagues. We become close friends with people in our office, with whom we share similar interests or skills. And we arrange after-work drinks and social events. All these behaviours describe relational crafting, which captures the changes of how, when and with whom crafters interact at their work. How many times have you thought that the impact of your job at your company – or your contribution to society – is worth every hour you stayed at work until late? Or how these working hours have been transformed into valuable resources? This is cognitive crafting, and it describes the changes on their perceptions or definition of themselves at work and their general perception of their work.

Job crafting is therefore all these proactive and continuous behaviours that are important in the workplace and that are associated with many of positive outcomes – both for employees and for organisations. It cultivates engagement and satisfaction to workforce experiencing dissatisfaction and retiring and is positively related to well-being (Tims, Baker & Derks, 2013). It creates new meaning and rekindles old job experiences (Berg, Dutton & Wrzesniewski, 2013); increases job satisfaction, job commitment and employee performance while tackling absenteeism (Ghitulescu, 2006).

To sum up, job crafting promotes a more positive attitude towards work among employees. Psychologically and physically healthy employees are more able to create efficient and effective organizational cultures. This new redesign process, well understood by business managers at the top and carefully incorporated by employees, has the potential to make a significant contribution in the modern workplace.

What makes job crafting such a unique redesign process is its bottom-up nature. After all, it is applied by employees to help their own selves, most of the times without being aware of these actions and without asking the permission on any manager or supervisor. Job crafting is a personal choice and it is an initiative to take some kind of control in their working environment. This is the main reason job crafting helps individuals to cope with demanding workplace conditions, allowing them to create an alternative job role for themselves so as to to give their working life more purpose and more meaning.

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